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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

Childhood Growth Linked to Adult Stress

More Stress With Low Birth Weight and Slow Weight Gain
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WebMD Health News

Oct. 4, 2002 -- The smaller someone is at birth and as a young child, the more psychological problems that person might have as an adult. That's the finding of a new study that looked at thousands of people throughout their lives.

Researchers already knew that low birth weight and poor weight gain are associated with psychological problems in children. They wanted to know if the same held true for adults, so they turned to an ongoing health study of people born during one week in 1958 in Great Britain.

The findings are published in the Oct. 5 edition of the British Medical Journal.

Data frommedical records, clinical examinations, interviews,and questionnaires for more than 9,700 people were analyzed. The researchers found that lower birth weight and slow weight gain up to age 7 were linked to more psychological distressas adults.

Distress was measured by a "malaise inventory" of 15 psychological symptoms reported by the participants in questionnaires they filled out at ages 23, 33, and 42. Someone with eight or more symptoms was deemed highly distressed.

The scores were higher at age 23, suggesting that the transition into adulthood is particularly stressful. The scores were similar at ages 33 and 42. Women had slightly higher scores at all ages. -->

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